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Proposal: ALT attibute for text

From: Clint Goss <clint@goss.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 08:45:14 -0400
To: public-html-comments@w3.org
Message-id: <000301cc6192$8158c620$840a5260$@goss.com>
Hello -

I have stumbled across what I believe to be a shortcoming of HTML with respect to blind and limited-sight users. I am not a regular
member of W3C (just a "public member"), so I am using this channel to provide this comment / feedback.

The Issue:

The ALT attribute is provided for a small set of tags to specify alternate text for screen readers or other assistive technologies.
The tags for which the ALT attribute is specified are those portions of an HTML that cannot be easily rendered as speech, such as
<img>, <area>, and <input>.

However, there is no way to specify alternate text for text itself.

In working on an resource site relating to music, I have had numerous interactions with blind musicians who use JAWS to render text
to speech. There are portions of text that can easily be specified in text that render well visually, but which no screen reader can
reasonably be expected to render clearly as speech. This significantly hampers the understanding of the text for blind users.

For example, many web sites specify fingerings for Native American Flutes using a text based system commonly known as SNAFT. I have
a page which describes SNAFT here:


As an example, a finger position with the top three holes closed and the bottom three open would be written in SNAFT text as:
<xxx|ooo. This is rendered poorly by all screen readers I have tried.

I would propose that the <span> tag be expanded to allow the ALT attribute. The above SNAFT example could be authored as:

  <span alt="Finger diagram holes 1 closed 2 closed 3 closed, holes 4 open 5 open 6 open">&lt;xxx|ooo</span>

I have not looked into other compelling uses for this proposal, but I would be willing to participate in an effort to improve the
HTML spec in this direction.

-- Clint Goss, Ph. D.
Web: www.goss.com
Email: clint@goss.com
Received on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 05:37:33 UTC

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